What can be said in 140 characters? Twitter comes to Northwood

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By Emily Brooks
Staff Writer

Once upon a time, MySpace ruled the lives of teenage students, then Facebook did, and now another rapidly growing social network, Twitter, rules lives.
Twitter is a micro blogging service that allows users to send and read posts known as “tweets.” The site got its start in 2006 by a group of businessmen who wanted to create a program where users would be able to inform others about what is going on through a short SMS message.
Twitter users can create an account, like a screen name, which enables them to be able to “tweet” and “follow” others.  These tweets consist of fewer than 140 character messages with the purpose to update followers on daily activities. Followers are the people who are able to read a user’s tweets.
Though Facebook seems to have been the social network of choice for most of Northwood, many students are now turning to Twitter.
“Facebook has changed so much and it was getting annoying,” said junior Donya Grissett. “Twitter is just fun because people talk about more on [Twitter] than they do on Facebook.”
Senior Gino LaManna sees Twitter as a new alternative to social networking.
“I’ve had a [Twitter] for about two months and it is better than Facebook because it doesn’t have all the excess junk that Facebook has, like chain [statuses] such as ‘to be honest,’” said LaManna.
In addition to teenagers around the world, many celebrities are on Twitter, including stars such as Lady Gaga, Oprah and even Barack Obama.
“I follow Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian because they are famous. Some of their tweets are interesting,” said junior Ebone’ Rhodes.
LaManna said that he enjoys following artists such as Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa.
“[Their tweets] keep me up to date on where they are and when their new songs are coming out,” said LaManna.
Included in some of these 140 character messages are “hash tags,” a concise word or phrase preceded by the pound symbol. The purpose of these hash tags is to emphasize a key point or idea in the tweet. Hash tags can start to “trend” which means many users on Twitter are using the same hash tag. An example of a trending hash tag is “ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage” which is referring to celebrity Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries’ 72-day marriage.
A tweet by a user going along with this trend was “#ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage: Taylor Swift’s speech before Kanye snatched the microphone.”
Twitter users also tend to tweet a lot when prominent events are happening. During this year’s Royal Wedding, tweeters mentioned the event 67 times a second.
Senior Maggie Denny was one of the users who tweeted about the wedding while up at four a.m.
“Even though many of my followers weren’t up during the wedding, I still tweeted because I was just so excited about the whole thing,” said Denny.
Though Twitter has been around for several years now, it is just now making its way into the lives of Northwood students.
“[Twitter] is just starting to be popular,” said sophomore Hannah Holloway. “It’s always been out there but now everybody’s talking about it.”
Some Twitter users once thought differently about the site.
“At first I thought Twitter was pointless, because it seemed like another Facebook, but it is definitely better than Facebook,” said LaManna.
Rhodes, who tweets about 50 times a day, agreed.
“I did think [Twitter] was stupid at first; I mean it is tweeting what you do, but I thought it was just the simple things you do all the time,” said Rhodes. “In a way [I think it is still stupid] because people just are talking about their lives. But it is still fun.”
Among the many Twitter users at Northwood, some are teachers. High school teachers around the United States have created Twitter accounts specifically for their classes.
English teacher Nick Winstead has a Twitter account for his classes, named “WinsteadEnglish.”
“[Twitter] helps parents and students to stay in the loop and to be able to see class assignments, as well as test and quiz dates,” said Winstead.
Senior Jessie Vohwinkel is one of Winstead’s students who follows his Twitter page.
“[His page] is a convenient reminder because I wouldn’t normally check a website he updates,” said Vohwinkel. “It’s something I have access to at my fingertips.”
With now more than 200 million users, this rapidly growing site will become a new part of high school lives. In a few months, who knows what site will take over the tweeters, but for now, hash tags and 140 characters seem to be dominating current days and nights of students.